An Introductory Explanation Of The Record That Follows

 by Lieut-Colonel John Joseph Burke-Gaffney, M.C. 1956

This record does not go back beyond the beginning of the nineteenth century. The reason for this is that there has not as yet occurred an opportunity to carry out research amongst the parish registers of the various counties of origin of the different members of the family. Reliance has been placed, for such detail of the earliest members of the family mentioned in the Record, on the story written by James P. Gaffney, of Cumberland, Maryland, U.S.A., i.e., 'Uncle James'. This story was written in 1907, when Uncle James was not in a position to check the information in his possession against authentic records. He is not, therefore, entirely reliable as to some of his facts. But the record that follows here is indebted to the Uncle James' account for the basis of the information now given of those early days. It has been possible to correct and to supplement this information to some degree from reliable sources available in Dublin, including diaries, contemporary journals, public records, etc.

There are difficulties in pursuing research into the antecedent of families in Ireland, more particularly in the case of Catholic families. There was no compulsory registration of births in Ireland until 1864.Prior to that date a record of baptism was required to be kept in the established (i.e., Protestant) churches. Some Catholic priests also maintained a record of baptisms. But the shadow of the penal days still hung over the Catholic Church in Ireland at the end of the 18th century. The Catholic, his Church and his priesthood only existed unofficially, and the maintenance of parish registers was not always possible. The parish' Church' may well have been only some back room in a local catholic's house, and such registers as existed, maintained ~perhaps by the parish priest in his own living quarters, uncertain of entry, unreliable as to date, and even unlikely to have been passed on to his successor, if any.

All this, however, is generalization, and it may be that when a search is made in Edgeworthstown, or in various parishes in county Mayo, further information will come to light. In the mean time, Where possible, uncertain dates have been cross‑checked against known events and reasonable deductions made.

By a fortunate chance a copy of the ages of the members of the family living in Dublin in 1851 was taken from the record of the census for that year, fortunate, because these records were afterwards destroyed when the record office was burned down with the Four Courts in the Civil War of 1922. But even these records were not reliable as to ages, since the enumerator who collected the statistics accepted without question the ages entered in the form by the householder.

Dates of births which took place in Dublin after 1850 may be accepted as reasonably accurate, because these have been verified against baptismal registers. Indeed it is the checking of these dates that shows the census returns cannot be accepted as necessarily correct, for they record the ages of at least two members of the family inaccurately. In fact it may well be surmised that there existed in those days a desire on some one's part to conceal the true ages of the children. For instance, the age of the youngest son, Frank, is shown in official documents as though he had been born in 1860, whereas he was actually baptized in 1859.

For the rest much of this record depends on written or oral statements of various members of the family. Where possible, these have been verified, but there remain many blind spots, some of which, it is honed, will be enlightened when the opportunity for research occurs.

In order to preserve an impersonal attitude in these records, individuals having the common name of 'Gaffney' have been referred to by their Christian names where the sense permits, irrespective of their relationship to each other. Moreover, the name by which they are generally known, and that in its full form rather than the familiar shortened form, is used generally. Thus Edward is used rather than ‘Teddie', 'Eddie' or 'Ned'; 'Ita' is used instead of 'Mary Josephine';and 'Noel' instead of 'Thomas Noel', etc. But for the information of future historians an appendix is added showing the full names, where known, of certain members of the family

As the record is of the Gaffneys, it has been confined to that family. For the benefit of the members of the family of Thomas and Joan Burke‑Gaffney however, a short account of the O’CONNELL, from which Joan came, is added.

Lastly, it is hoped that those who may read this record will show indulgence towards its manifold shortcomings and will not hesitate to call attention to any historical inaccuracies which may be observed, of which there may well be many.

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